BAY AREA LEGAL AID

Rating: 4.79 stars   19 reviews

Issues: Crime & Law

Location: 1735 Telegraph Ave Oakland CA 94612 USA

Mission: BayLegal is committed to providing equal access to the justice system and free, high quality legal assistance regardless of a client’s location, language or disability.  Access to quality legal assistance and advocacy is crucial for these individuals to understand and assert their rights to create stability for themselves and their families.  Without free civil legal services such as BayLegal’s, these members of our community have no recourse when their basic rights are violated or not being exercised.  Over 1.2 million residents* of the San Francisco Bay Area are living in poverty, and all of them are at risk for a number of destabilizing factors that plague the working poor.  These individuals and families are at high risk for lack of sufficient resources to meet basic needs like food, clothing and utilities; unfair treatment and discrimination by landlords; and lack of access to health care.  For this vulnerable population, an unwarranted eviction notice, the presence of domestic violence, wrongful termination of healthcare benefits or difficulty in overcoming barriers to employment can have devastating results. Families may lose or be denied housing, employment or vital medical treatment.  In the long run, the constant stress caused by these types of chronic problems can lead to family dysfunction and breakdown. There are often simple legal solutions to these kinds of problems, allowing these vulnerable residents to begin to move out of these desperate conditions.  However, the many burdens of a life of poverty make it extremely difficult, if not impossible in some instances, for a family to focus on a potential legal problem in order to see if it can be resolved.  In many cases, low-income families are not even aware of their legal rights.  Recent studies demonstrate the difficulty low-income residents face when trying to access legal assistance - a 2002 report by the California Commission on Access to Justice stated that 72% of all low-income Californians do not have access to a lawyer when facing a serious legal issue; and on average low-income households experience at least one civil legal need per year (Legal Services Corporation). *Residents living at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.
Geographic areas served: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo and Santa Clara counties
Programs: Bay Area Legal Aid provides free civil legal services to low-income residents of Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara Counties. Legal assistance includes information and referrals, advice and brief service, legal representation, public policy development and improvement, trainings at community-based organizations, and community education and outreach. All services are provided in multiple languages and in a culturally sensitive manner. BayLegal focuses its resources on four priority areas identified by clients and the community as the most pressing needs: domestic violence prevention, affordable housing and homelessness prevention, access to health care, and economic security.  Domestic Violence Prevention: BayLegal helps victims of domestic violence navigate the various legal, housing, and income options available to them as they strive to end the violence and create a safe and stable environment for themselves and their families. We help victims with restraining orders, child and other support orders, residence exclusion orders, unwarranted evictions, and priority transfers within public housing.  Housing Preservation: BayLegal housing advocates strive to prevent homelessness and to preserve and expand affordable housing by enforcing housing laws and regulations. Clients who are victims of illegal evictions, discrimination, substandard housing, or other violations of their housing rights are represented.  Health Care Access: BayLegal helps people to enroll in and obtain services from health insurance programs for the indigent, including Medi-Cal, Healthy Families, and county care programs. In addition to providing brief services and extended direct representation, BayLegal conducts education and outreach activities at community-based organizations and public policy advocacy.  Economic Security: Advocates work to secure income and support services for those who qualify for public benefits such as SSI, CalWORKs, General Assistance, Food Stamps, and In-Home Supportive Services. Cases primarily involve assisting clients in reversing unfair terminations or denials. BayLegal advocates also strive to improve the administration of these programs, thereby helping public agencies become more responsive to the community?s needs.
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EIN 94-1631316
510-663-4755
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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

I volunteered at Bay Area Legal Aid after I graduated from law school and was awaiting Bar results. This was one of the most rewarding volunteer experiences I have ever had. I was at the Redwood City office, where the staff was entirely positive, enthusiastic, helpful, and fun to be around. I felt valued as a volunteer, and I was immediately given the opportunity to work directly with clients. I felt adequately trained and prepared to handle all the responsibilities they gave me. My supervisor, Kristin Boscia, was amazing. She taught me so much about Family Law in a short period of time and directed me to many other resources.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

My brief work at this office re-ignited my desire to do public interest work. I personally saw how diligently and respectfully each individual at Bay Area Legal Aid assisted members of the community. I saw how grateful those community members were. Mostly, I saw how well this team of attorneys, paralegals, volunteers, and assistants works together and enjoys what they do.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

I would give this organization the capacity to help more people!

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Rating: 5 stars  

After a reasonably successful career in Information Technology, I experienced a mid-life shift in values, went to law school, and in 2003 began a volunteer internship at Bay Area Legal Aid. Working under Genevieve Richardson, I learned to handle basic domestic violence restraining order and dissolution cases for families in poverty. Ms. Richardson’s compassion and mentorship have inspired me to continue working in this field ever since. After law school, I attended the Family Law Training Series sponsored by Bay Area Legal Aid and the Contra Costa Bar Association. This experience, along with Ms. Richardson’s guidance, gave me the confidence start my own practice focused on low-income families. Since 2003, I have found enormous satisfaction and inspiration in working with Bay Area Legal Aid clients as they make difficult changes in their family structures to provide better lives for themselves and their children.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the thanks given to me from Clients who have told me that I have changed their lives for the better, and the knowledge that I have helped create safer family environments for women and children in poverty.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

expand their training programs for attorneys in exchange for pro bono service commitments.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010

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Rating: 5 stars  

I worked at Bay Area Legal Aid as a volunteer, and it has confirmed for me that I am definitely planning to go to law school. The responsibility I got to take on here coupled with the training was wonderful. I've learned more than I could have hoped, and I got to work under the supervision of a great attorney. I got to have clients, and take on a large majority of their case with a lot of help along the way. The staff here is great too, very friendly and welcoming. It's been an awesome experience.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

People getting their driver's licenses back, making a real effort to get a job and 'turn a new leaf'. People getting their criminal records expunged.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Not do anything.

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Rating: 5 stars  

13 people found this review helpful

At Bay Area Legal Aid, I worked in the medical access unit assisting a number of individual clients with legal problems related to medical issues or health insurance coverage. During my fairly short internship, I prevailed on several important cases. I gained a tremendous amount of experience and I would love to work their again sometime soon. Here's some examples of cases I worked on: First, I filed an appeal behalf of a client whose nursing home attempted to discharge him despite his need for on-going intensive care. At his hearing several doctors, nurses, social workers, and physical therapists testified that the client was ready for discharge. Nevertheless, we won the appeal and the client remains in the nursing home. In another case, I helped an uninsured client with Healthy San Francisco get authorization for a complex and badly-needed bone tumor removal surgery. The client recovered well from his surgery. Finally, I assisted several clients grappling with thousands of dollars of medical debt. I researched various hospitals' "charity care" programs and helped clients through the often-complex application process. I got great supervision and support on all of my cases.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

n/a?

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

get a bigger office with more windows. Though they are about to move to a bigger offer next month (July).

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

Helping clients win cases.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

Passionate, intelligent, and welcoming.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

Help a lot more low income people.

Ways to make it better...

na

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Funding issues.

One thing I'd also say is that...

How frequently have you been involved with the organization?

About every week

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2010-5-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

31 people found this review helpful

Bay Area Legal Aid is a wonderful organization. I have volunteered my time and services to help people that would otherwise go unrepresented. It has been as rewarding for me as it has been for the people I have represented. In helping one individual with a difficult dissolution, I learned how to handle Moore/Marsden property divisions, and made a lifelong friend in the process. I have met many well qualified attorneys and have found a wonderful mentor within this organization as well. I have helped her with a number of cases and she has returned the favor by providing me with valuable insights into my most difficult cases. It has helped me both personally and professionally to be associated with Bay Area Legal Aid. I recommended it for any new attorney who wants to help others and benefit from the knowledgeable staff members that they will be working with. Sincerely, Michael R. Fosco, Esq.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the several clients I have worked with who not only resolved the matter to their satisfaction, but grew personally to overcome the stigma associated with their issues.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

engage more new attorneys and experienced attorneys to assist more of the less advantaged individuals in the community we live and work in.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

working with the staff mentors who have overseen the casework I was involved with them on.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

extremely top notch lawyers. They are both knowledgeable and caring individuals that have been there to assist me when I needed them. They have helped me grow as a lawyer and as a person.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

wage war on domestic violence, help individuals that go unrepresented due to the high cost of litigation.

Ways to make it better...

I had a little more experience before I took on a very difficult case. However, I learned so much in taking on the case, that it actually turned out to be beneficial. (I was stressed a little in the process).

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

the number of individuals that need help, but go unrepresented due to the lack of participation from the professionals in our community.

One thing I'd also say is that...

Genivieve Richardson is a wonderful mentor and a great ambassador for Bay Area Legal Aid!

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

36 people found this review helpful

I have assisted BALA twice with preparation for appellate arguments, and both times was very impressed with the attorneys handling the case on behalf of domestic violence clients. The BALA attorneys are very dedicated professionals that exceeded my expectations. It is a terrific resource for the community.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

very dedicated to their cases and clients.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-1-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

32 people found this review helpful

I serve as the pro bono coordinator for Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, a large international law firm with offices in San Francisco and Menlo Park. Over the past two and a half years, I have worked with Bay Area Legal Aid ("BALA") to identify and place pro bono cases with our attorneys. BALA is an outstanding referral source for our pro bono attorneys because they consistently provide us with sophisticated, cutting edge cases that are of strong interest to our attorneys. In addition, they serve clients who are most in need in areas of law, such as family law and immigration, which are often difficult to place at a law firm. BALA's screening and mentoring are all first-rate. In addition, BALA has an outstanding pro bono coordinator who is incredibly responsive, understands the need of law firms, and provides great feedback, mentoring and support to us. Overall, I believe BALA is one of the finest legal services providers with which we work anywhere in the country.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

providing excellent pro bono cases to our attorneys, and follow up through outstanding mentoring and support.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

continue as is and attempt to get more funding to expand the pro bono program.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the responsiveness and first-rate cases they have offered us.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

all very dedicated and diligent.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

go a long way to meeting the needs of the large number of poor persons who have no access to attorneys for their civil law problems.

Ways to make it better...

Not possible!

In my opinion, the biggest challenges facing this organization are...

Funding.

One thing I'd also say is that...

An excellent organization that is run smartly and leanly.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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Role: Professional with expertise in this field
Rating: 5 stars  

30 people found this review helpful

As an attorney, I have done significant pro bono work in conjunction with Bay Area Legal Aid in the area of immigration law and domestic violence. The Bay Area Legal Aid attorneys with whom I have worked are fantastic, committed professionals who have far exceeded my expectations. Their commitment to the communities they serve is remarkable, and I very much appreciate their efforts to reach out to attorneys in the private sector in order to assist us all in fulfilling our commitment to the communities in which we live and work. Thank you!

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

the ways it has changed the lives of so many people in need.

What I've enjoyed the most about my experience with this nonprofit is...

the satisfaction of having made a tangible contribution to the community.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

warm, committed, and brilliant.

If this organization had 10 million bucks, it could...

change the world.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-8-01

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Rating: 5 stars  

34 people found this review helpful

In my experience, Bay Area Legal is staffed by dedicated professionals who really believe in what they are doing. Bay Area Legal organized training in Family Law which featured very useful materials and presentations by family court judges and experienced family lawyers. I don't know where else I could have gotten such great training. Also, Bay Area Legal attorneys did a tremendous job in mentoring me as I dealt with my first family law and immigration issues.

The kinds of staff and volunteers that I met were...

dedicated and excellent at what they do.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2008-1-01

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